Local ‘community patrols’ are being set up to help women feel safer when out in public after the recent suspected kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard
Amy Todd, a woman in London, set up the Peckham Patrols group in the wake of Sarah Everard’s disappearance, and after two instances of sexual harassment were reported in her local park.
The patrols will be made up of two or more people wearing high-visibility clothing, carrying torches and whistles. They will patrol the local area over several hours throughout the evening, handing out flyers.
‘Women shouldn’t be asked to change their behaviour’
Ms Todd told JPIMedia: “They are there to be visible - let people know that they can come to the park and there are people who will be looking out for them.”
Recent research from the UN found that 97 per cent of all young women in the UK have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives.
Coverage of Sarah Everard’s disappearance has sparked a wider conversation about a tendency to put the onus on women to take precautionary measures to avoid harassment or assault, rather than discussing the drivers of violence against women.
It was this broader discussion, as well as the recent cases of violence and abuse against women, which prompted Ms Todd to organise the community patrols.
“I don't believe we should ask women to change their behaviour to be able to walk where they live safely,” she explained.
“This is the alternative I came up with because, right now, it's all we can do with the little power we have as the community.
“How much you are asked to live within this appropriate bubble of behaviour - don't walk alone, ring a friend, and so on.”
“This was something I could do in a very small way that might make some impact. It's how I deal with trauma, I'm a do-er.”
Reclaim These Streets
Like the Reclaim These Streets vigils which are being organised across the UK to take place this Saturday (13 Mar), the Peckham Patrols group was inspired by Reclaim the Night protests which began in Leeds at the height of the Yorkshire Ripper killings.
Ms Todd also cited the so-called ‘Newham 8’ case, where a group of young men who had faced racial threats and violence in their community were arrested after defending themselves in Newham, London, in the 1980s.
Ms Todd said anyone who would like to help out with the patrols in her area should join the ‘Peckham Patrols’ Facebook group.
She said: “It’s no long term commitment, if people can help just once for an hour that is absolutely fine.”
But she also encouraged others to think about setting up similar patrols in their own area.
“I would say to someone else who wants to do this that the more direct action we take, the less the chance of women being abducted or sexually harassed,” she said.
“It's going to be boring walking around the same park for hours - but it’s boring and nothing happens in part because you are there and people know that it is a safer space. And that’s a brilliant thing to be able to do to help your community.”